South Korea orders Mitsubishi to pay WWII forced laborers

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South Korea’s top court has ruled that the Japanese group Mitsubishi should compensate individuals for their forced labor during World War II. Japan immediately retaliated, calling the ruling “totally unacceptable.”

Upholding a 2013 appeals court decision, the court ordered Mitsubishi to pay 80 million won ($71,000, €63,000) to each of the 23 plaintiffs. In a separate ruling, it demanded that the company pay 150 million won to each of five other plaintiffs.

The ruling echoed a landmark verdict last month by the court, which ruled in favor of a group of South Koreans seeking compensation from the Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp for their forced labor during the war.

Shortly after the ruling, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono issued a statement describing the court’s decision as “totally unacceptable.”

“This fundamentally overturns the legal basis for friendly ties between Japan and South Korea and is extremely regrettable,” Kono said.

A case brought previously in Japan was dismissed on the grounds that their right to reparation had ended with a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between Tokyo and Seoul.

‘Crimes against humanity’

In its ruling, the South Korean Supreme Court said the treaty did not apply in cases of crimes against humanity.

“The treaty does not cover the right of the victims of forced labor to compensation for crimes against humanity committed by a Japanese company in direct connection with the Japanese government’s illegal colonial rule and war of aggression against the Korean peninsula,” the court said in a statement.

Japan’s 1910 to 1945 occupation of Korea casts a shadow over bilateral relations even now. Another significant point of contention is Tokyo not having apologized for the wartime exploitation of South Korean “comfort women” who were forced into being sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II.

rc/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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